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Edward Hooper

Edward Hooper (born 1951) is a British journalist best known for his book, The River, which investigates the origins and early epidemiology of AIDS and makes a case for the OPV AIDS hypothesis, the claim that the AIDS virus was accidentally created by scientists testing an experimental polio vaccine.

Additional recommended knowledge

The OPV AIDS Hypothesis

Hooper first encountered the OPV Aids hypothesis when he read a 1992 article in Rolling Stone magazine by freelance journalist Tom Curtis. Curtis described a theory advanced by Louis Pascal that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was inadvertently caused in the late 1950s in the Belgian Congo by Hilary Koprowski's testing of an oral polio vaccine (OPV) on human subjects. This is the so-called "OPV AIDS hypothesis." (Rolling Stone later printed a retraction of the article in response to legal threats by Koprowski.)

Hooper travelled to Africa for seven years of research before publishing The River. Hooper surmised that an experimental oral polio vaccine prepared in chimpanzee kidneys or blood may indeed have been the route through which the SIV passed to humans and mutated into HIV, some time between 1957 to 1959.

Citing several cases in which virus manufacture is indeed known to have introduced simian viruses into human hosts (including the deaths of several laboratory technicians from Marburg hemorrhagic fever[citation needed]) Hooper advocated for further, serious scientific investigation of the OPV/AIDS hypothesis; and for the observation of appropriate precautions with regard to future use of animal tissue culture in medical applications, particularly in the research and development of AIDS vaccines.

With the enthusiastic support of eminent evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton, Hooper was invited to take part in a symposium at Royal Society of London, the first time a non-scientist had ever been invited to such a discussion. Hooper maintains that the OPV AIDS hypothesis, and its relevant lessons, should be given serious consideration. Since publication of The River he has developed a website [1] devoted to the continued scrutiny of the theory and of the scientific community's response to it.

Academic Controversy

The OPV Aids theory has remained highly controversial within the scientific community. [2] On his website, Hooper states, "there is concerted opposition to the theory from those who publish and write in Nature and Science, the world's two leading scientific journals," and alleges conflict of interest, in that Nature and Science have favored articles by parties affiliated in some way with Koprowski's laboratory (The Wistar Institute) and/or the distribution of OPVs; while at the same time restricting publication of articles favorable to the OPV AIDS theory need cite. Hooper also cites the industry's fears of legal repercussions in the wake of the Rolling Stone/Koprowski lawsuit, raising questions about freedom of speech and freedom of dissent within the scientific community.

Much mystery exists about the nature, donor species, and ultimate fate of the original Wistar OPV vaccines, most of which were not stored for further examination. About 1 million people in Belgian Congo have been treated with vaccines of murky origin (and about 6 million people in the former Soviet Union by a competing vaccine developed by Albert Sabin). The River describes poor record keeping practices, both by the scientific community in general during the time of early polio research, and in particular surrounding the OPV in question (no shipping records, nor probes records); it further raises questions about disputed ownership of some of the vaccines as possible motivation for this lack of record keeping[citation needed]. Scientists have examined a few frozen vaccine samples which were stored at the Wistar Institute, and have found no evidence of HIV or SIV,[3], save one long ago claim by a competing vaccine manufacturer to have found SIV contamination in one of them.[citation needed]

In April 2004, the component of the OPV AIDS theory which held that Koprowski's Kisangani chimpanzees were, indirectly, the true source of HIV-1 was questioned by an article which appeared in Nature entitled "Origin of AIDS: contaminated polio vaccine theory refuted." In the article, researchers Michael Worobey and colleagues verified the existence of SIVcpz in indigenous chimps from the Kisangani area but claimed that phylogenetic analyses of said virus indicated that it was nested within an entirely different clade of SIVcpz than the strain that includes HIV-1. These results were touted to have shown that local Kisangani chimpanzees could not have been the source of HIV-1.[4].

However, The River, through exhaustive interviews with still-living parties involved in the Kisanjani lab, called into question the true origins of the Kisangani lab animals and theorized that several species and subspecies indigenous to different geological areas may have intermingled at the facility, thereby leading to interspecies contamination and resultant viral mutation which could render phylogenetic analysis of any resultant virus difficult to interpret. Hooper's website contains material that claims to be additional rebuttal to the Worobey article.[citation needed]

Another recent publication has claimed that the SIV from which the virus HIV-1 is believed to have mutated has been found in populations of wild chimpanzees in the Cameroon, leading some scientists to assert that hunters in this area could have been infected with HIV as early as the 1930s [5], i.e., before OPV was developed.

On the other hand, The River and Hooper's website discuss the effect of viral recombination (a major factor in HIV's family of viruses) in speeding the phylogenetic differentiation process, thus making a more recent date of cross-species transfer plausible. Bette Korber's former boss and mentor, Dr. Gerald Myers, concluded that the technique used by Korber and colleagues "has not the least bearing on the origin of AIDS debate."[6]. Hooper further alleges circumstantial evidence linking various different African OPV tests, and their probable source species, in time and place to the various known forms of HIV; as obviating against the theory of random transfer through hunters.


  • Edward Hooper, The River, Little Brown and Company, 1999, ISBN 0-316-37261-7.
  • Polio vaccines and the origin of AIDS: some key writings
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Edward_Hooper". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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